Finding a Job at a College

College graduate standing in archway of university


H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock

Many of us have fond memories of college life and entertain fantasies of getting back to campus for a job. Colleges offer a high quality work environment for many employees. Campuses are often situated in beautiful settings and offer an abundance of art, cultural, entertainment, athletic, and recreational opportunities.  So how can you turn this fantasy into a reality and land a campus job? 

Transfer Your Skills from Corporate to College

The first step is assessing your knowledge, skills, and experiences and looking for ways to transfer your skills into a campus role. Colleges frequently hire individuals with solid experience in parallel roles within the business, nonprofit, and government sectors.

Types of Jobs Available at Colleges and Universities

There are many good job opportunities available in higher education administration. Individuals with a strong accounting background might consider the financial services or the financial aid office at a college. Candidates with a strong sales and marketing background can consider admissions, annual fund, and development positions. Event planners might explore opportunities with alumni affairs or college events offices. Public Relations professionals can land jobs in college communications.

Those with experience in writing, editing, and publishing can work with college publications. Psychologists and social workers with experience serving adolescents and young adults can secure jobs for campus counseling centers. Nurses, physician's assistants, and doctors can work for college health services.

Human resources professionals can land jobs with college HR offices. IT professionals can work for campus technology centers. Grants administrators for non-profits can work in research administration at colleges. Law enforcement workers can work for campus security.

Professionals in technical and specialized fields can often land adjunct positions teaching courses at local community colleges to supplement their income.  

Conduct Informational Interviews

A great way to brainstorm appropriate roles for you on a college campus is to approach departments of potential interest at your alma mater or a local college and conduct informational interviews with staff in those offices.

Most college staff will gladly agree to meet with alumni or members of the local community who are curious about their work.  Be prepared to share your core skills and assets so that college staff members have a basis on which to advise you. Once you establish contact with staff in one office, ask for introductions to colleagues in other offices where your skills may apply. If you are impressive at these meetings, you may be pleasantly surprised by some referrals for job interviews.

Network, Network, and Network Some More

Once you identify target niches, talk to your family, friends, neighbors, former co-workers, fellow parishioners, and anyone else to see if they can introduce you to anyone they know who is working in those types of jobs. Approach those individuals for informational interviews.

Contact the career and/or alumni offices at your alma mater and ask for a list of contacts working at colleges so that you can do some more informational consultations.  Inquire about alumni social and networking events in your area where you might rub shoulders with alumni working at colleges. Join your college's LinkedIn group and reach out to any members in higher education for advice and assistance regarding your transition.

Check the membership roster of any professional organizations to which you belong for individuals in your field who work at colleges. Ask them for advice about transferring your skills into their niche and for any assistance they might provide.

Start a Job Search

Identify colleges within your target employment zone and look at the HR sections of their websites for currently posted positions and apply for any jobs of interest. Consider reaching out to the director of any department which is advertising a job for an informational consultation to gain some visibility as a candidate.

Colleges typically advertise their openings in local newspapers, the nearest big city newspaper, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and/or Ask your contacts about the best professional society for their field within higher education and the website for that organization will contain related job listings.

Consider Volunteering

Another way to ease your transition to a college job is through volunteering with a relevant office at your alma mater or a local college. Admissions, alumni, and career offices typically have roles for volunteers, which may present the opportunity to apply for a paid position.  Other offices like communications may hire part-time staff or freelance workers.